This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind - We Are The Mighty
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This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

Among the many planes flying sorties against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a version of the C-130. No, not the AC-130 gunship – although that plane did help blow up a lot of ISIS tanker trucks according to a 2015 Military.com report.


Here we’re talking about the EC-130H Compass Call. And while the highly-modified cargo plane doesn’t have the firepower appeal of the AC-130, it brings a lot of lethal wizbangery to the fight.

Things can go pear-shaped even with the best-laid operational plans when comms are crystal clear. Commanders can issue orders, and subordinates receive them and report information up the line.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
An EC-130H Compass Call prepares to taxi Dec. 5, 2016 at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. The Compass Call employs a crew of roughly a dozen Airmen working together to jam Da’esh communications. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Park)

Now imagine being an ISIS commander who is unable to send orders to units, and concurrently, they can’t send you any information. You’re now fumbling around, and figuratively blind as a bat against the opposition.

When the anti-ISIS coalition comes, backed up by special operators and air power, pretty soon you find yourself in a world of coalition hurt.

According to an Air Force release, the EC-130H has been doing just that against ISIS. This plane is loaded with jamming gear that cuts off communications.

According to an Air Force fact sheet, it works with the EA-18G Growler, the F-16CJ Fighting Falcon, and the EA-6B Prowler. The plane, though, has been in service since 1983. It was first designed to help take down air-defense networks, usually by working with other planes like the F-4G Wild Weasel and the EF-111 Raven.

These are old airframes. The plane may have entered service in 1983, but the airframes are old.

“We have a 1964 model out here on the ramp and you run the gamut of issues from old wiring to old structural issues (and) corrosion. You find that many of the items on the aircraft have been on there for well over 20 or 30 years, and parts fail all the time. So the aircraft more often than not come down and they need us to fix it before it can fly again safely,” 1st Lt. John Karim, the Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge with the 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, told the Air Force News Service.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM — An EC-130H Compass Call with the 398th Air Expeditionary Group takes off from a forward-deployed location for a mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Robert J. Horstman)

They might be old, they don’t make things go boom, but they still help kick some terrorist ass.

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That time Rick from ‘Pawn Stars’ purchased a nuclear weapon on the show

Things you expect in pawn shops: jewelry, electronics, and nuclear bomb parts.


Wait, that last one isn’t right. No one expects to find nuclear bomb parts in a pawn shop. But in this scene from Pawn Stars, Rick calls in an expert to assess whether the cover for a B-57 nuclear bomb is authentic.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
(Photo: YouTube/History)

The B-57 is a thermonuclear weapon that uses the W-44 Tsetse, a 300-ton to 10-kiloton warhead, as a primary charge that triggers a 5 to 20-kiloton secondary explosion. The weapon was tested and deployed as everything from an airburst weapon to a nuclear depth charge.

It was even deployed, but not used, on the USS America during Operation Desert Storm.

On its own, the cover for a B-57 is no more capable of being used as a weapon than a pen cap is of writing, so it’s perfectly safe to buy and sell. Of course, it’s also hard to find a use for nuclear bomb parts without any nuclear bombs.

See Pawn Star Rick negotiate the purchase in this clip:

Source: History/YouTube
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The difference between Air Force and Army hair expectations

Civilians might think of military hair regulations as one standard look (see: jarhead), but there’s actually some variance among the branches. The “high and tight” sported by soldiers and Marines is much too short for your average airman.

Just ask Air Force captain Mark Harper.


In 2005, Harper deployed to Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq as Officer In Charge of the Joint Combat Camera team. Though he deployed with the Air Force, it was a joint environment, so Harper found himself reporting to an Army colonel and supervising about 40 grunts.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

The first day he reported to Army HQ, those soldiers jumped on the chance to give him a hard time about his hair (which is probably a good thing — you only haze the people you like, right? Right?).

“I learned my schedule was intense and I wouldn’t be able to get someone else to cut it, but I wasn’t going to endure this mockery again, so I thought, ‘How hard can this be? I’m just going to cut it myself…'”

He lucked out — the Post Exchange sold Wahl clippers.

That night at 0200 he finally found some spare time to cut his hair.

Also read: These are the rules NATO allies have about growing beards

With no practical experience selecting clipper guards, Harper wasn’t exactly sure what he was doing, but the Wahl gear was pretty intuitive and he even managed to fade it on the sides.

“So I officially did it. I cut my own hair.”

He then walked proudly into the Air Force tent.

Check out the video below to see their reaction:

www.youtube.com

We Are The Mighty is proud to partner with Wahl, the leader in the professional and home grooming field.

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The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017

Everyone wants to know who’s carrying the biggest stick. While everyone has their own measurements for how to judge the size of a nation’s military, these 10 militaries are easily some of the best equipped and trained in the modern world:


10. United Kingdom

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
A British sniper sights down his L115A3 sniper rifle. (Photo: Ministry of Defense)

The United Kingdom has one of the world’s newest aircraft carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth. It also has nearly 900 aircraft and an active duty military of over 150,000 people. But it has a small overall navy for an island nation at 76 total ships and its total armored vehicles, counting its 250 tanks, is just a hair over 6,000.

9. Germany

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
German army Upper Cpl. Andre Schadler scans the battlefield for threats with a thermal sight during the first day of training at the Great Lithuanian Hetman Jonusas Radvila Training Regiment, in Rukla, Lithuania, June 10, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. James Avery)

With almost 700 aircraft and over 6,000 armored vehicles as well as 180,000 well-trained active troops, Germany is well-positioned for a defensive war. Why only defensive? Because it lacks most significant power projection platforms like carriers and has few troop transports and submarines.

8. Italy

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
A member of the Italian Special Forces participates in small unit tactics at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center in Amman, Jordan, during Eager Lion 2017. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Lange)

Italy has two smaller aircraft carriers, lots of helicopters, and almost 250,000 active troops, allowing it to push significant force around the world. Those service members are equipped with over 800 aircraft and 7,000 armored vehicles. Unfortunately, a shortage of tanks (about 200) and ships (less than 150 for a peninsular nation) hurts its ranking.

7. France

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
A French paratrooper watches other airborne soldiers descend from a C-130. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Lloyd Villanueva)

The French military has 204,000 active military personnel and 183,000 in reserve. Those are relatively small numbers, but its forces are equipped with capable equipment produced by a homegrown defense industry — think of the Mirage fighter and the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship.

It relies more heavily than most on armored fighting vehicles as opposed to tanks with almost 7,000 of the former and just over 400 of the latter. The nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle is the only non-American nuclear carrier in the world. Its foreign legion is one of the most famous combat forces in the world.

6. South Korea

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
U.S. Soldiers assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment and Republic Of Korea Soldiers (ROK) with 8th Division,137th Battalion conducts an urban breaching at Rodriguez Live Fire Range, South Korea, March 9, 2016. (Photo: U.S Army Staff. Sgt Kwadwo Frimpong)

With over 624,000 troops; 2,381 tanks; and 1,412 aircraft ready to go, South Korea is anything but weak. It also boasts over 5 million reserve service members. Most of its equipment is on the newer side and some of it is homegrown. But, it’s important to remember why Korea keeps so much firepower at hand.

It’s most likely enemy is North Korea, which has one of the largest artillery stockpiles in the world stacked within range of the South Korean capital. And while the huge North Korean military is too badly equipped, trained, and prepared to make this list, it’s still likely that an invasion from the north would cripple South Korea and level its capital before the aggressors could be beat back.

5. Japan

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Japan’s JS Atago, a guided-missile destroyer. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Jennifer A. Villalovos)

Japan maintains a “Self-Defense Force” that is very capable on both offense and defense. With the fourth largest submarine force and four small aircraft carriers — often called “helicopter carriers” — as well as homegrown tanks and aircraft and imported weapons like the U.S. Apache, Japan has a varied and capable collection of military hardware.

Still, the country suffers from a significant size issue. It has less than 1,600 aircraft, 4,000 armored vehicles, and only about 130 ships. All of that is manned by a little over 300,000 troops. In a protracted war, Japan will keenly feel every loss of a submarine or other high-value asset.

4. India

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
IAF Garud Commandos in an Indian Air Force training video (IAF Video Still)

India has a large number of troops, but those are largely reserve personnel (2.8 million reserve vs. almost 1.4 million active). It boasts a large number of armored vehicles at over 11,000, but has a relatively small air force and navy and relies on more prosperous allies for much of its defense development.

But some of those joint ventures are paying off. While India’s Sukhoi planes purchased from Russia have repeatedly ran into problems, the country is also working with Russia to perfect a fifth-generation fighter and a supersonic cruise missile that could be carried by submarines, planes, and vehicles.

3. China

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
A Chinese ZBD-04 infantry fighting vehicle. (Chinese Defense Ministry photo)

China has the world’s largest population at 1.4 billion and its largest military population at 3.7 million with 2.2 million of those being active troops. Those millions of men and women are equipped with almost 3,000 aircraft, 13,000 armored vehicles, and 714 ships.

But China struggles with modernization and organization problems as decades of power struggles between the army and navy hollowed out sections of the force. But with increased military spending that puts it behind only the U.S., it’s quickly closing the technological and equipment gaps, especially in strategically important areas like Taiwan, the South China Sea, and Africa.

2. Russia

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Russian special forces. (Photo: The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

When it comes to countries punching above their weight, it’s hard to find an example better than Russia. Despite a relatively small economy (data differs, but it’s typically ranked 10th or lower in the world), it manufactures a large amount of military hardware and is the second largest exporter in the world after the U.S.

This allows it to field about 3,800 planes, 5,600 armored vehicles including tanks, and 282 warships (counting everything from its aircraft carrier to small logistics vessels). It’s currently trying to develop the T-14 Armata. If successful, that would be the world’s most advanced tank, boasting active protection systems, an auto-loader, and nearly unbeatable armor.

1. United States

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Shiloh Capers)

If you were surprised, you shouldn’t be. The U.S. spends the most on its military, both per capita and total. Its Navy has the largest and most aircraft carriers in the world with 11 full-sized carriers (counting the new USS Gerald R. Ford) and 8 “helicopter carriers” in service. Its Air Force flies the largest and most technologically advanced air fleet in the world which is just a little larger than the U.S. Navy’s air fleet.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps aren’t the largest of their respective groups worldwide, but they are some of the most capable. Both forces enjoy very high spending per service member compared to rival forces, and that allows them to bring their artillery and aircraft to the fight.

All four U.S. Department of Defense branches are trained to work together on a battlefield, combining their powers into one joint team.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why immigrant military recruits are in bureaucratic limbo

Army Spc. Charles Choi, 32, originally from South Korea, has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in statistics from Cornell University. He has education and skills that make him a highly valued prospect for the military, but he hasn’t made it to Basic Combat Training after signing up with the Army Reserve.

He has been waiting for two years.


Yes, I’m in limbo,” Choi said in an interview with Military.com. “I’m still waiting for the security clearance to be completed.”

Choi is one of several non-citizen enlistees who joined the military through the Military Accessions Vital To National Interest program, and spoke with Military.com about how they’ve been stuck waiting months or years for clearances and security screenings to process.

The program, created to attract those with highly sought skills for military service, has been essentially suspended amid political battles over immigration policy. Of the estimated 10,400 troops who have signed up to serve through MAVNI since 2008, more than 1,000 now face uncertain futures. Some can’t risk the wait.

For Choi, that’s especially true.

“Delays are so long and we have a finite length to our visas and that’s where the real problem comes in,” he said.

His visa will expire in less than a year.

“So if they just keep us in limbo and if we run out of visa status, then we cannot work or drive,” he said. “It’s a very screwed-up situation.”

The complex history of MAVNI

In 2012, well before MAVNI fell victim to the nation’s ever-shifting immigration policies, then-Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno invited Sgt. Saral Shrestha to his Pentagon office for a photo op and a congratulatory grip-and-greet. Shrestha, who was born in Nepal, had just won the Army’s “Best Warrior” competition.

Shrestha, who earned citizenship through MAVNI, was honored later that year at the annual Association of the U.S. Army’s convention as the “Soldier of the Year.”

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Sgt. Saral Shrestha.
(U.S. Army photo by Teddy Wade)

Shrestha’s motto is “Mission first, soldiers always.” He said that “MAVNI was a blessing” in his progress from student visa to the Army and then to taking the oath as a citizen.

In March 2018, Army Sgt. Santosh Kachhepati, a combat medic with the 62nd Medical Brigade with two tours in Afghanistan, was selected for the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program, or EMDP2. He will begin his studies to become a doctor at George Mason University in Virginia in the fall.

“I consider this opportunity to be an Army physician an honor and a privilege to serve the medical needs of our soldiers who risk their lives protecting this nation,” Kachhepati said, according to a release from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

JBLM said that Kachhepati, also from Nepal, “came to the United States to attend college at the University of Texas at Arlington. He graduated U.T.’s Nursing Program with Honors in 2013.”

“He enlisted in Army in 2014 through the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest program, which allows certain qualified non-citizens to enlist in the U.S. military and thereby gain eligibility for U.S. citizenship,” JBLM said.

MAVNI began in 2008 as a one-year pilot program with the goal with the goal of bringing in non-citizen recruits with language or medical skills for the nation’s counterinsurgency wars and giving them a fast track to citizenship in return.

Adm. Eric Olson, then-commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, said at the time that MAVNI recruits were “operationally critical” to the military’s needs. But the program from the onset was caught up in political immigration debates and the high command’s security concerns.

The program was suspended in 2009 over fears of insider threats in the ranks when Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan, a psychiatrist born in the U.S., shot and killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others in a rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5 of that year.

The restrictions were lifted again in 2012, shortly after Shrestha won the “Soldier of the Year” award. Since then, MAVNI recruits have performed higher on entrance tests and had lower attrition rates than native-born troops, according to military data. But the program reached a turning point in September 2016.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Santosh Kachhepati
(U.S. Army photo by Cain Claxton)

The beginning of the end for MAVNI came in the form of a September 2016 memo to the service secretaries from Peter Levine, then the acting under secretary for personnel and readiness.

Levine said that the MAVNI pilot program “is currently set to expire on Sept. 30, 2016.”

As it turned out, that wasn’t quite so.

In the same memo, Levine said that “changes in the enclosed guidance will strengthen and improve the execution of the MAVNI program.”

He said that for MAVNI in the coming year, “the maximum number of accessions will be: Army — 1,200; Navy — 65; Marine Corps — 65; and Air Force — 70.”

Despite the language suggesting the program’s continuation, Pentagon spokespeople said the program was effectively allowed to end October 2017, when tighter screening procedures were put in place for MAVNI recruits who had already signed up.

Mattis looks to save MAVNI

In a memo in July 2017, to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Pentagon personnel and intelligence officials warned of the “espionage potential” from foreign-born recruits.

“While the Department recognizes the value of expedited U.S. citizenship achieved through military service, it is in the national interest to ensure all current and prospective service members complete security and suitability screening prior to naturalization,” the memo said.

Foreign-born recruits would have to “complete a background investigation and receive a favorable military security suitability determination prior to entry in the active, reserve, or Guard service,” the memo said. “Those in the MAVNI program and other foreign-born recruits may have a higher risk of connections to Foreign Intelligence Services.”

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

However, Mattis, in a session with defense reporters in October 2017, said he was looking for ways to keep MAVNI alive despite the 2016 Levine memo that had again suspended the program.

“We are taking the steps obviously to save the program, if it can be saved,” Mattis said. “And I believe it can.”

In January 2018, on board his plane en route to Vietnam, Mattis held out the possibility that MAVNI could be renewed once enhanced vetting procedures were ironed out.

Mattis said that an internal examination had found that procedures were lax in screening MAVNI recruits.

“We were not keeping pace with our usual standard,” he said.


“We’ve got to look people’s backgrounds, and if you have a lot of family members in certain countries, then you come under additional scrutiny,” he added. “Until we can get them screened, we can’t bring in more.

“You’ve got to be able to screen them as they come in, rather than get them in and then you send them off to a unit and they say, ‘By the way, they don’t have security clearance yet.’ And then they say, ‘Well, thanks very much, but I can’t use them.’

“So it’s simply a matter of aligning the process, the recruiting process with the usual screening process,” Mattis continued. “There’s nothing more to it.”

Don’t go climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

The changes in the rules since 2016 have left more than 1,000 recruits already accepted into the military in a state of bureaucratic limbo with time running out on their visas while they await security clearances.

Choi, the Korean Army specialist, described filling out a form that required him to list his travel to foreign countries over the last seven years. He didn’t list a trip to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, which had occurred more than seven years before he filled out the form.

Six months later, an Army investigator gave him a call. They had found out about the trip to Tanzania and needed some “points of clarification,” Choi said. “The way they do it is just really not organized at all. It’s kind of clear this was made up on the fly.”

Choi said his battalion commander has urged him to look at the possibility of attending Officer Candidate School.

Army Reserve Pfc. Alan Huanyu Liang, 24, is also caught up in the same screening logjam while waiting to report to BCT. He was born in China, has been living in the U.S. for six years and has a bachelor’s degree from University of California, Los Angeles.

He signed his contract under the MAVNI program in May 2016.

“Since then, my life has been drastically changed by this program,” he told Military.com. “From the day I signed my contract, I have been eagerly waiting for my ship day [to BCT].”

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
The first Navy sailors to participate in the MAVNI program are issued the oath of citizenship by Stacey Summers, branch chief from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Chicago field office.
(U.S. Navy photo by Scott Thornbloom)

Now, he said, it has been almost two years and no progress has been made since he signed his contract.

“I have been drilling every month since I was in-processed into my unit, and I witnessed people coming later to the unit than I did get shipped and came back with a uniform,” he said. “I really, really envy them. I wish one day I can be in that uniform and serve like a real soldier. I keep asking my recruiter and all I am told is to wait.”

Another MAVNI recruit, who didn’t want her name used, told Military.com that she has been at a training base for two years after completing BCT while awaiting additional screening that would let her go to AIT, or Advanced Individual Training.

In the meantime, she does paperwork.

“You need the favorable adjudication [Military Service Suitability Determination] to go to AIT,” she said. “I’m between a rock and a hard place. It’s kind of ridiculous, but I am still motivated by the idea of serving.”

Lawyer who built MAVNI pushes to save it

“There’s an epic bureaucratic fight going on,” said Margaret Stock, a lawyer and former Army lieutenant colonel who was instrumental in planning and initiating the MAVNI program while still in the service.

“It’s an appalling example of bureaucratic incompetence,” she said of the efforts to kill the MAVNI program and subject those who have already signed up to endless screening.

“They’re saying the MAVNIs are some kind of security threat,” Stock told Military.com, but “there is no specific threat” that justify strictures that would kill a program that has already proven its worth.

“They pose the same threat that U.S. citizens would,” said Stock, the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellowship.

To meet a range of emerging threats, “we need these people,” she said. “What we don’t need is people sitting on a base for 18 months doing nothing because of background checks.”

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Meet the ‘Ripsaw,’ one extreme badass tank

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
U.S. Army RDECOM, Flickr


If an M1 Abrams tank and a Baja race truck had a baby, it would be the Ripsaw. This extreme tank can go faster than anything on tracks. The only downside — lack of armor.

Related: Here is the smallest manned tank ever made

There are two versions of the vehicle. The military version has an open top while the newer one, the Ripsaw EV2 (Extreme Vehicle 2) has a hard top and closely resembles the Batmobile in The Dark Knight. The EV-2 is being touted as a “high-end luxury super tank” and sold to the public. It comes with gull-wing doors, a high-end racing suspension, and a diesel engine that cranks out over 600 hp.

Howe and Howe Technologies makes some of the most extreme vehicles and robotics. Their creations have attracted police departments, the U.S. military, and Hollywood. There’s a good chance you’ve seen a modified version of the vehicle if you saw Mad Max: Fury Road or G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Scene from G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Fresh Movie Trailers, YouTube

The company even had a reality show on the Discovery Channel hosted by its founders, twin brothers Michael “Mike” and Geoffrey “Geoff” Howe.

This video shows how the Ripsaw’s speed and handling compares to the M113 armored personnel carrier, which many consider to be the quickest tracked vehicle in the military, and a Baja-style Dodge truck.

Watch:

Offroadzilla, YouTube

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Senator McCain and General Welsh scuffle over the A-10’s fate

As Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 3, controversy erupted when he mentioned the service’s plans to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known to troops as the “Warthog” and largely regarded as the most effective close air support aircraft in the inventory today.


This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Airman Brandon Kempf, 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated A-10 Thunderbolt II crew chief, watches as an aircraft taxis into position after landing May 9, 2013, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Kleinholz)

For years, the USAF fought with congressional leaders about the fate of the Warthog.  Congress laid down the law in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, requiring that the Air Force find a viable replacement for the airframe’s close-air support role before they would be allowed to retire it.

Originally, the Air Force tried to wedge the F-35 program into the CAS requirement, but Congress flat-out rejected it as an option. Thus, the A-10 was given a stay of execution until a congressionally-mandated, independent study determined the Air Force has such a suitable replacement.

In his recent testimony, Gen. Welsh told the Senate the USAF will use the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-15E Strike Eagle to fly close air support missions; however, those options didn’t work for the SASC, especially not the chairman, Senator John McCain, a former Navy attack pilot who was shot down over North Vietnam and spent six years as a POW in Hanoi.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Col. Mark Anderson (Tail No. 188), 188th Fighter Wing commander; Maj. Doug Davis (Tail No. 639), 188th Detachment 1 commander; Col. Brian Burger (Tail No. 613), 188th Operations Group commander; and Capt. Wade Hendrickson (Tail No. 638) conduct a training mission Dec. 30, 2013, over Razorback Range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch)

“You have nothing to replace [the A-10] with, General,” McCain shot back. “Otherwise you would be using F-15s and the F-16s of which you have plenty of, but you’re using the A-10 because it’s the most effective weapons system. This is really, unfortunately disingenuous.”

As well as being the most tailored for the CAS mission, the A-10 also has the lowest cost per flight hour at $19,051 compared to the F-35 at $67,550, the F-16 at $22,470, and the F-15E at $41,921.

When Welsh tried to press the issue, McCain called his testimony “embarrassing.”

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Capt. Richard Olson, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 pilot, prepares to take flight at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 2, 2011. A-10s can survive direct hits from armor-piecing and high explosive projectiles up to 23mm. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“Every Air Force pilot that I know will tell you that the most effective close air support system is the A-10,” McCain said.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Pentagon has 6 months to disclose what it knows about UFOs

As part of the newly passed COVID-19 relief legislation, lawmakers are demanding answers from U.S. intelligence agencies and the Defense Department on the potential existence of UFOs and other unidentified aerial phenomena.

The $2.3 trillion omnibus appropriations legislation passed last month includes the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal 2021, which provides more resources toward investigation gathering and “strengthening open source intelligence” collection among the agencies, according to a release from Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who introduced the bill in June. The Senate passed the legislation in July.

Some of that information includes what the Pentagon, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its counterparts know about unidentified aerial phenomena — also known as “anomalous aerial vehicles.” Lawmakers expect to see a report on the collected UFO data 180 days from the bill’s passage, according to the legislation.

News website Complex was first to report the details. The report will be unclassified, but will include a classified supplement.

Lawmakers are concerned that there is “no unified, comprehensive process within the federal government for collecting and analyzing intelligence on unidentified aerial phenomena, despite the potential threat,” which is why a sweeping report on all relevant information regarding UAPs is essential, according to the bill’s text.

Lawmakers want information on any UAPs that were found using geospatial intelligence, signals intelligence, human intelligence, or measurement and signature intelligence, regardless of which agency or service collected the data, the bill states.

The UFOs don’t have to be out of this world, either. The legislation requires information on any technologies China, Russia, Iran, North Korea or others may possess in this field, including “aerospace or other threats posed by the unidentified aerial phenomena to national security, and an assessment of whether this unidentified aerial phenomena activity may be attributed to one or more foreign adversaries,” it adds.

In April, the Pentagon officially acknowledged three incidents reported by Navy F/A-18 Hornet fighter pilots after years of speculation that pilots were encountering alien spacecraft during training missions.

The Defense Department that month published videos of the incidents — one taken in November 2004 and the other two in January 2015 — “which have been circulating in the public domain after unauthorized releases in 2007 and 2017,” officials said in a statement.

“After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military airspace incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sue Gough said at the time.

The video confirmation came a few months after Navy pilots got the word out there had been an increase of UFO sightings in recent years. As a result, the service issued new guidelines on how best to document sightings or encounters, according to a 2019 report from Politico.

The New York Times reported that pilots had sightings — and, in one instance, a near collision — while flying training missions off the East Coast between 2014 and 2015.

Then last August, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist officially created the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, a Navy-led unit, to hunt down any pertinent encounters service members may have had with aerial objects that pose a threat to national security.

The U.S. government has looked into UFOs for years, most notably between 2007 and 2012 when the Pentagon began its Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, an effort championed by then-Sen. Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada and the Senate majority leader at the time.

The program was meant to “pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena,” the Defense Department said, motivated by events such as the 2004 “Tic Tac” incident, which was documented in one of the Navy’s released videos.

In that incident, F/A-18 pilots from the aircraft carrier Nimitz, operating off the San Diego coast, reported spotting a large, Tic Tac-shaped object that appeared to be floating without the assistance of an engine or exhaust plume.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

Data shows performance divide on Army Combat Fitness Test

It may take up to five years to finalize the standards for the Army Combat Fitness Test as the service struggles to address the performance gap between male and female soldiers on the service’s first-ever gender-neutral fitness assessment.

The Army just completed in late September 2019 a year-long field test of the ACFT, involving about 60 battalions of soldiers. And as of Oct. 1, 2019, soldiers in Basic Combat Training, advanced Individual training and one station unit training began to take the ACFT as a graduation requirement.


So far, the data is showing “about a 100 to a 110-point difference between men and women, on average,” Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commander of the Center for Initial Military Training, told Military.com.

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North Carolina National Guard Fitness Manager Bobby Wheeler explain the proper lifting technique of the ACFT deadlift event to the students of the Master Fitness Trainers Level II Certification Course, Sept. 25, 2019, at Joint Forces Headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alonzo Clark)

Final test-score averages taken from soldiers in the active forces, National Guard and Reserve who participated in the ACFT field test illustrate the performance gap that currently exists between male and female soldiers.

Maximum deadlift: Male soldiers deadlifted an average of 238 pounds; females lifted an average of 160 pounds.

Standing power throw: Male soldiers threw an average of 9 feet; female soldiers three average of 5.5 feet.

Hand release pushups: Male soldiers performed an average of 34 pushups; female soldiers performed an average of 20.

Sprint-drag-carry: Male soldiers completed the SDC in an average of 1 minute, 51 seconds; female soldiers completed the event in an average of 2 minutes, 28 seconds.

Leg tuck: Male soldiers completed 8.3 leg tucks; female soldiers completed 1.9 leg tucks.

Two-mile run: Male soldiers completed the run in an average of 16 minutes, 45 seconds; female soldiers completed it in an average of 18 minutes, 59 seconds.

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U.S. Army soldiers participate in a 2.35-mile run.

(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)

All of the test-score averages are high enough to pass the ACFT, data that contrasts dramatically with that shown on a set of leaked slides posted on U.S. Army W.T.F! Moments in late September. Those slides showed an 84% failure rate for some female soldiers participating in the ACFT field test, compared to a 30% failure rate among male soldiers.

CIMT officials said the slides were not official documents. Hibbard said the field test showed that soldiers’ scores improved significantly between the first time they took the ACFT and after they were given time to work on their problem areas.

Currently, female soldiers at the start of Basic Combat Training taking the ACFT average about “a third of a leg tuck,” Hibbard said.

“If you have 144 women in basic training, the average is .3; by the end of it they are doing one leg tuck,” Hibbard said, who added that that is all that is required to pass the ACFT in that event. “So, in 10 weeks, I can get from a soldier not being able to do a leg tuck on average to doing one leg tuck.”

Hibbard said there are critics that say, “it’s too hard; females are never going to do well on it.”

“Well, we have had women max every single category, [but] we haven’t had a female max all six categories at once.”

Hibbard said the Army would be in the same position if it tried to create a gender-neutral standard for the current Army Physical Fitness Test.

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U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test, Dec. 19, 2018.

(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

“We would still have challenges, because you have to make the low end low enough that 95% of the women can pass,” Hibbard said, adding that the Army will likely have to make small adjustments to the standard over time as soldiers improve their performance in each event.

“It’s going to be three to five years, like we did the current PT test.”

The Army first introduced the APFT in 1980 and made adjustments over time, Hibbard said.

“Once the Army began to train and understand how to do the test, we looked at the scores and we looked at everybody was doing and we rebased-lined,” Hibbard said.

The next key step for implementing the ACFT by Oct. 1, 2020, will be to have active duty soldiers take two diagnostic ACFT tests and National Guard and Reserve soldiers take one to establish to get a better sense of the force’s ability to pass the test.

“I don’t think it is going to be hard for the Army to pass; what have to figure out as an Army is how do we incentivize excellence,” he said. “The goal of this is we change our culture so that we incentivize and motive our soldiers to be in better physical shape.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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The Pentagon is considering sending 1,000 more troops to Syria

The Pentagon is considering sending an additional 1,000 conventional troops over the next few weeks into Syria, ahead of an upcoming offensive against the ISIS capital of Raqqa.


The troops would likely come from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit — currently on its way to the region — and the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, which recently made its way to Kuwait, according to a report in The Washington Post by TM Gibbons-Neff.

The proposed increase in conventional forces would follow similar deployments in recent weeks that have supplemented special operations forces, of which roughly 500 have been on the ground for some time.

Related: Chinese troops are reportedly patrolling in Afghanistan

A convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria last week to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Marines with the 11th MEU train in Djibouti. Leathernecks from the 11th MEU reportedly just deployed to Syria to bolster an assault on Raqqa. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

The Ranger deployment was followed soon after by a contingent of US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment, which left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa.

“For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations US-backed forces are carrying out,” the Post wrote.

Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for OIR, told Business Insider previously that the moves into Syria were to pre-position US forces so they can provide logistical and fire support to “Syrian partnered forces” who will eventually assault Raqqa.

The Marines and Rangers will provide the “commander greater agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqah. The exact numbers and locations of these forces are sensitive in order to protect our forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS,” Dorrian told Business Insider.

He added: “The deployment of these additional key enabling capabilities allows the Coalition to provide flexible all weather fire support, training and protection from IEDs, and additional air support to our Syrian partners.”

Meanwhile, US special operations forces, who are said to be taking a training and advisory role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, were quietly given more latitude to call in precision airstrikes and artillery. As the AP reported in February, advisors are now able to call in airstrikes without seeking approval from an operations center in Baghdad.

Additionally, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces are increasingly getting closer to direct combat.

Also read: Meet the female Peshmerga fighters battling ISIS

The presence of additional US ground troops inside Syria — even miles from the frontline — would bring with it considerable risk. Combat outposts often draw rocket and mortar fire, in addition to small arms. Last March, a Marine outpost established to support the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants, killing Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.

A total of nine American service members have been killed in OIR combat operations, while 33 have been wounded, according to Pentagon statistics.

There is also additional risk from the US’ partnership with Syrian Kurdish fighters known as the YPG, or People’s Protection Units. Though the Pentagon seems to believe the YPG would be the most effective force in the Raqqa fight, the unit is considered a terrorist group by Turkey.

Turkey has so far refused to compromise, insisting the US use a different Syrian rebel group, Reuters reported.

“Our soldiers will not be fighting together with people who shot us and killed our soldiers and are trying to kill us,” one senior Turkish security official, briefed on recent meetings between Turkish and U.S. strategists, told Reuters.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how Beretta ended up as the US military’s sidearm for three decades

This article is not meant to disparage Beretta’s products. The 500-plus-year-old company has supplied arms to every major European war since 1650, and the results are just what a weapons manufacturer intends their products to do. When it came to replacing the legendary M1911 as the U.S. military’s trusty sidearm, no one expected the Italian company to carry the day, but cost was the final factor for the Air Force. From there, it spread to all the branches.

The Army was not pleased.


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The M1911 was a workhorse.

From 1911 to 1986, the Colt M1911 was the pistol weapon of choice for the U.S. military. These days, most military personnel don’t require or train on a pistol, but in the days of the 1911, most absolutely did. The American-built weapon was a trusted, durable weapon for decades and many, many wars – and still hasn’t been entirely replaced. But ultimately, the 1911 was replaced because of capacity.

World War III was supposed to be fought in the forests and fields of Europe, where American and NATO troops would face an onslaught of Soviet men who may be fighting in human wave attacks. Planners wanted to give Western fighting men as many rounds as possible to fight their way out, so it seemed natural that decreasing the size of a round while increasing capacity allowed the average G.I. Joe to carry and load more bullets. The M9 would allow for twice as many rounds per load.

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The Italian-owned company Beretta submitted its Model 92S handgun to the U.S. Air Force-led Joint Services Small Arms Program in 1978. The Air Force was tasked with finding a sidearm that was suitable for all branches of the military. Beretta went up against other heavyweights of the firearms industry, including Heckler Koch, Colt, and Smith Wesson, to name a few. To everyone’s surprise, the Air Force declared Beretta, the clear winner.

It was not a welcome surprise for the Army. The Army declared the Air Force tests invalid due to what they called testing discrepancies. So they conducted the trials again under Army supervision. While all this hoopla over the test results was happening, the U.S. Navy purchased the Beretta with features demanded by the JSSAP.

The Army went ahead with a third trial anyway, set for 1984. In this trial, Beretta submitted an improved Model 92 up against SIG Sauer’s P226 model, both vying to be the U.S. military’s M9. While both performed admirably, Beretta’s lower overall cost won it the day, and the Army declared the Italian-made pistol its new sidearm of choice.

Since being declared the M9, there have been more than 600,000 Berettas ordered by the U.S. military. American arms manufacturers were incredulous, leveling any number of charges against Beretta, including accusing the Italian company of having access to SIG Sauer’s initial bid to the Pentagon.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

The M9 was a workhorse in its own right.

But the Beretta did not last as long as the M1911 did in the U.S. arsenal. After 30 years (no small feat), SIG Sauer finally usurped the Italian gunmaker to become the U.S. sidearm maker for the U.S. Armed Forces Modular Handgun System, finally issued in 2018 with its P320 model.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How 10k soldiers helped out during Hurricane Irma

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2017 — The Total Army, which includes active duty, Reserve, and Army National Guard personnel, remains involved in or prepared to support state, territory and other federal agencies as part of Hurricane Irma relief operations, Army spokesman Col. Patrick Seiber said yesterday.


“Governors are best postured to determine the needs of their residents and establish response priorities,” he said. The state governors are using Army National Guardsmen to help meet those needs.

“The Army has pre-positioned or is in the process of positioning equipment and personnel in the affected areas to ensure adequate resources are readily available if needed,” Sieber added.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Nearly 10,000 Army personnel are involved in the response to Hurricane Irma, which battered the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico before coming ashore in Florida in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm, Sept. 10, 2017. Army graphic

As of 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time yesterday, the Total Army response includes the following:

— The Army response for Hurricane Irma involves more than 9,900 soldiers and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civilians in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S.

— The Army has six aircraft, about 500 trucks and more than 80 generators committed to relief efforts with more than 150 aircraft, almost 600 generators, 150 boats and nearly 3,000 trucks on standby to support response efforts if called upon.

— Army National Guardsmen from Florida, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are on State Active Duty status and are either responding or prepared to respond to each governor’s priorities. Additionally, Army National Guard units in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas are conducting routine inactive-duty training that they will utilize to prepare for a Hurricane Irma response if required.

— The Army Corps of Engineers is already working in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to assist with power restoration efforts and have teams on standby to assist in Florida if needed. The Corps is also monitoring conditions at the Herbert Hoover Dike around the waters of Lake Okeechobee, Florida, and will continue to provide expert status updates.

— The Army also has active-duty officers assigned with Federal Emergency Management Agency Regions II, IV, and V Headquarters to provide expert military advice on storm response efforts.

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That time the US stole a Soviet satellite

On an undisclosed night in 1959 or 1960, four CIA agents grabbed their cameras, stripped off their shoes, and climbed into the sexiest thing to ever come out of Soviet Russia during the Cold War: the Luna.


When the night was over, the Soviets were none the wiser and America was sitting on a trove of details about the Russian satellite program.

The opportunity came when the Soviet Union, hoping to tout its technological and economic might, planned a traveling road show that would show off its greatest achievements. Since it had launched the world’s first two satellites and was a pioneer in nuclear technology, people were willing to let the road show in.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
The Soviet space program was the pioneer in the first few years of the space race. After launching the first two man-made satellites, Russia began working on the Luna spacecraft, pictured, which were designed to impact the moon. (Photo: Russian Archives)

 

And America wanted a ticket. Agents went to one of the stops to see if maybe, just maybe, the satellite model was actually a real, production satellite. They managed to get to the Luna while it sat, alone and unguarded, in an undisclosed exhibition hall for 24 hours.

The agents learned that the Luna on tour was very much a real satellite; it just wasn’t carrying an engine or certain electronic parts. But it was still a production satellite with markings that would indicate what companies had manufactured parts, and studying it could give Americans a better idea of its capabilities.

And so the CIA wanted to get a better look. When they checked the upcoming tour dates, another visit in an exposition was ruled out because the Soviets were expected to man a 24-hour guard at most future locations. But, there was no guard scheduled while the displays were in transit.

The CIA first went for hijacking a train, hopefully by shunting it off the main tracks and onto a side lane with a warehouse, but the agency didn’t have adequate resources on the rail line to pull it off. That left the possibility of hijacking the truck that took the satellite to the rail yard.

Agents started by getting the Luna scheduled for the last truck out of the fairground after a display. Then, they kept an eye on the Russians in the rail yard and the fairground as well as vehicle traffic on the roads.

The vehicle checker in the rail yard had no way of talking to colleagues at the fairground, so he was unlikely to know how many trucks were supposed to be coming and going, and CIA cars shadowing the truck saw no signs of a Soviet escort.

And so the Americans pounced, forcing the truck to stop and sending the original driver to hang out overnight in a hotel (no word on how they kept him occupied, so we’re going to assume alcohol and other party favors were involved).

Then they used another driver to move the truck to a salvage yard rented for just this purpose. Cars from the CIA station patrolled the area around the yard to ensure no one came knocking.

Four agents went into the yard with portable lights, cameras, metric wrenches, and other tools. They quickly set to removing the roof of the massive crate, 20 feet long, 11 feet wide, and 14 feet tall at the peak.

Then, they lowered ladders into the crate and began photographing the satellite. They removed their shoes to prevent leaving scuff marks on the device. They photographed the payload, a large orb with an attached antenna, as well as all the present electronics and many of the attachments.

 

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Luna satellite schematic as drawn by the CIA. (Image: CIA)

A team opened the engine compartment by removing 130 bolts and then got into the payload basket by cutting a wire with a stamped plastic seal. As the main team photographed the items underneath, cars raced the wire and seal back to the station to get copies made.

In a short time, the agents copied down all relevant data from the engine compartment, nose section, and even the payload basket while taking detailed photos of the same. A roll of film was developed inside one of the cars to make sure that all photo equipment had worked properly.

By then, the replacement seal had arrived and the agents got the whole thing put back together inside its crate. A little after 4 a.m., the original driver was sent back to his truck and he delivered it to the rail yard where no Soviets were present. When the rail checker arrived at 7 a.m., he saw the waiting truck and had the Luna loaded on the train.

As far as the CIA could tell, the Soviets were none the wiser. America was able to identify the major company producing the Luna and at least three companies that produced components for it.